Paperback Picks

As the very strange summer of 2020 begins to slip away, you just might be in need of a paperback for sunny afternoons. Here are a half-dozen new fiction releases that might appeal.

Dominicana” by Angie Cruz (Flatiron, $16.99; available Aug. 25). Cruz’s first novel in 14 years, shortlisted for the 2020 Women’s Prize for Fiction, is the story of a teenage immigrant from the Dominican Republic, newly arrived in New York with her much older (and rather sinister) husband. Reading it last year, I was struck by how skillfully Cruz crafts an everyday miracle: Ana, her main character, is a different person by novel’s end, growing from childlike innocence to brave womanhood.

The Liar” by Ayelet Gundar-Goshen (translated from the Hebrew by Sondra Silverston; Little, Brown, $16.99). Israeli author Gundar-Goshen’s writing is lushly elegant; this book, about the consequences of a lie told by a teenager, is filled with descriptions that might stop you in your tracks. (A young girl’s laugh is “round and orange, like apricots.”) When I read it last year, I was struck by its fascinating dual nature: The book is structured like a thriller, but the prose makes it a slow, delicious read.

Agent Running in the Field” by John le Carre (Penguin, $17). Le Carre was 88 when this book, his 26th, came out last year — but like that image of a running agent, the spy fiction master isn’t slowing down. Of his prose, NPR reviewer Bethanne Patrick wrote, “Not only does it hold the coiled energy of a much younger writer, it fits the bitter, angry narrator’s voice exceptionally well,” and called the book “a novel that may be a portrait in miniature of modern spies, but is in miniature as detailed and astonishing and entertaining as anything in its genre today.”

Heaven, My Home” by Attica Locke (Little, Brown, $16.99, available Aug. 25). Locke’s Darren Mathews is one of my favorite crime-fiction heroes these days, in no small part because he’s not always heroic. Mathews is Black and a Texas Ranger, and he has a complicated love/hate relationship with his home state. As she did in “Bluebird, Bluebird,” the Edgar Award-winning first book in the series, Locke makes him both appealing and very real, and weaves a story — about a missing child with connections to white supremacists — thick with rich characterizations, elegant descriptions and complicated motivations.  

Chances Are” by Richard Russo (Knopf, $16). A national bestseller, Russo’s first novel in a decade (he’s best known for his Pulitzer Prize-winning 2001 novel, “Empire Falls”) centers on three old friends in their 60s, on Martha’s Vineyard for one last vacation together — one in which they look back on a weekend 44 years ago that changed their lives. “One of the great pleasures of ‘Chances Are . . .’ stems from how gracefully Russo moves the story along two time frames,” wrote Washington Post reviewer Ron Charles, “creating that uncanny sense of memories that feel simultaneously near and remote.”

The Revisioners” by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton (Counterpoint, $16.95). Winner of the NCAAP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work, Sexton’s acclaimed novel is told in alternating chapters by two Black women narrators, separated by a century: One is a contemporary single mother in New Orleans; the other is a former sharecropper now living on her own farm in 1924. New York Times reviewer Stephanie Powell Watts described Sexton’s prose as “clear and uncluttered, the dialogue authentic, with all the cadences of real speech,” and called the novel “stunning.” It reminds us, she wrote, that “though you may share blood, there are connections deeper and more powerful than blood, connections that turn a collection of individuals into a community, and will forever be more significant than any bond that’s merely skin deep.”